Review: CSI: Miami–‘Die By The Sword’

After a man is literally cut in half by a sword-wielding killer, the CSIs must infiltrate a Japanese gang.


A frantic man flees from a motorcycle-driving assassin, running into an abandoned warehouse to escape his pursuer. The rider catches up with him and slices him in half! When the CSIs arrive at the scene, Dr. Loman determines the murderer used a sword, and Travers analyzes small flecks of metal left behind to determine the sword used was a Japanese katana. Jesse suspects a Japanese gang known as Sikiru, who are known for cutting off the fingers of disobedient members, are involved. He reviews the files on the gang, pointing out their leader, Takashi Yamada, to Walter. Horatio and Jesse track Yamada to Club Bonsai, where they find the gang leader getting a new tattoo. Yamada doesn’t deny his involvement with the gang, but he shows the CSIs that he’s missing three fingers–making it physically impossible for him to even hold a katana, let alone use one. Horatio points out that the men in his gang are more than capable, but with no further evidence, the CSIs turn to the victim, Russell Turner. Turner taught social studies at a local school and coached football–hardly a likely target for a gang. Ryan, Natalia and Tripp pay a visit to Turner’s home, and Ryan is shocked when a Japanese teenager wielding a katana steps out behind Natalia–and she doesn’t even notice! Ryan catches the kid, who identifies himself as Kenny Turner–Russell’s adopted son. Ryan spots blood on the katana and Tripp takes the boy into custody. Natalia thanks Ryan for looking out for her and he angrily tells her she needs to seek treatment for her hearing problem–or someone is going to get hurt.

Horatio questions Kenny, who tells the CSI that he and his dad were having dinner at a restaurant when his dad’s expression suddenly changed and he told Kenny to run. Kenny saw the man on the motorcycle chasing his dad and followed–only to find his father dead in the warehouse, a bloody sword at his side. He took the sword and fled. Kenny shows Horatio a picture of a man who came to the house to threaten his father on his cell phone, and Horatio recognizes former MDPD detective John “Sully” Sullivan. Sully is working private security for Yamada, and he won’t tell Horatio why he went to Russell’s house. Horatio wonders if the boy could be related to Yamada, and Natalia points out that she didn’t find any legal adoption papers for Kenny. Recalling that Yamada was getting a tattoo applied with bamboo, he sends Walter back to Club Bonsai to get the bamboo in the hopes of pulling DNA off of it. Natalia runs the DNA and finds that Yamada is indeed Kenny’s father. Horatio questions the man, who says his son was stolen from him and he’s been looking for him ever since. Yamada vows to get his son back. Across town, the boy is being driven by Tripp when their car is run off the road. A woman tries to take Kenny, but Tripp calls it in and stops her. Calleigh arrives at the scene and notices tattoos on the woman indicating she’s Sikiru. The woman denies it–she says she’s Kenny’s mother. She tells them she was raped by Yamada at fifteen and got pregnant. She gave her son to Russell, a marine she met, so that the Sikiru wouldn’t get their hands on him. She changed her name to Susan Lee and didn’t hear anything from Russell until he called her two says ago saying there was trouble.

Horatio approaches Sully again, but the ex-cop defends his new boss. Calleigh and Jesse process Russell’s clothes, and Calleigh smells pine needles on them. She and Ryan go back to the scene and discover the same smell in the warehouse–coming through in the water. Calleigh suspects the smell is used in a pesticide, and that it would be found on the killer. Jesse and Horatio examine the Sikiru men and find one with pesticide on the back of his neck. The man says he did what was necessary to save Yamada, and that the gang leader will get his son back. Puzzled as to why Yamada is so determined to get his son back after fifteen years, Calleigh looks up his records and is surprised to find his blood type changed from A to O. Recalling that a liver transplant can change a person’s blood type, she realizes because of Yamada’s extreme method of getting tattoos, he might be in need of yet another liver transplant. Tripp informs the CSIs that Yamada has taken Kenny, and Horatio goes to Sully to tell him what’s happened, getting Sully to relent and tell him where Yamada has gone. Horatio catches Yamada and gets him to let the boy go, but Yamada fires his gun at the CSI, causing Horatio to fire back, killing the gang leader. Kenny tells Horatio that he misses his father and is afraid of going into the system, and Horatio offers another alternative: going to live with his mother. Susan tells the reluctant boy that she’s thought of him every day since she gave him up, and he finally embraces her. Natalia finally gives in and goes to get her hearing checked out. The doctor tells her she has noise-induced hearing loss, but has also discovered an older injury, one he suspects was caused by domestic abuse. Natalia denies it, but takes the brochure about domestic violence that he hands her.


Aside from Horatio’s over-the-top showdown with Yamada, “Die by the Sword” is an episode that is much more grounded than its dramatic title and premise suggest. Sure, it features yet another gang—this one takes fingers if members don’t stay in line—but the character of Kenny Turner manages to ground the story in large part. Kenny’s portrayer, BooBoo Stewart, injects real emotion into his performance, making the audience care about Kenny and what happens to him. Yamada’s machinations cost him the only father he’s ever known, which the writers wisely drive home in some of Kenny’s dialogue. More than any of the other CSIs, Miami has a tendency to gloss over some of the messier emotions in a large number of their episodes, but Melissa Scrivner limns Kenny’s shock and grief, giving his story real feeling. In the end, Kenny is reunited with his mother, despite some initial reluctance. His realistic reactions to the situation imbue the story with real feeling.

The bit with Horatio riding to the rescue in the CSI Hummer is somewhat outlandish, especially when Yamada fires at him and somehow misses—but then is taken out by Horatio’s first shot. Why would Yamada give up his hostage if he was just going to take a shot at Horatio anyway? The scene feels awfully convenient—an action-packed ending that plays out with little real jeopardy. That’s the problem with Horatio being a perfect shot who takes out bad guys with ease: the audience never buys into the idea of the danger. It’s all too easy because we know, every time, that Horatio is going to prevail, so as a climax, the moment falls short.

Aside from the predictable showdown, the episode is a pleaser, though, and even rather cleverly brings back a new-old face: Detective John “Sully” Sullivan from the season premiere “Out of Time”, which featured flashbacks to 1997, when Sully was Horatio’s partner. This episode finds Sully working private security, for Yamada of all people. Though he provides Horatio some resistance initially, staying loyal to his boss, when the chips are down and Horatio tells Sully that Yamada has kidnapped Kenny, Sully comes through and tells his former partner where the gang leader is. Sully and Horatio butted heads back in 1997 as well, when the forward-thinking Horatio relied on science while the more tradition Sully was swayed by circumstantial evidence and his own gut feeling. Though, as I always do when Horatio butts heads with someone, I wish it wasn’t so black and white, it’s nice to see Sully relent and do the right thing.

After she realizes she was completely oblivious to a dangerous situation, Natalia finally relents to Ryan’s insistence that she get her hearing checked out and makes an appointment with a doctor. She’s lulled into a sense of security by the first few tones in the hearing test, which she easily identifies, but then from her perspective, the machine falls silent. Natalia knows it’s not that there’s nothing to hear; from the expression on her face, it’s very clear that she’s aware that she should be hearing something–she simply isn’t. Eva La Rue plays the scene with the perfect mixture of dread and anxious hope that things aren’t as bad as she fears.

Unfortunately for Natalia, the doctor not only tells her that she’s suffering from noise-induced hearing loss, but that it’s complicated by an old injury, which he immediately suspects is the result of domestic violence. Viewers found out back in season four’s “Collision” that Natalia left an abusive marriage, though it hasn’t been referenced much since her ex-husband, Nick, was murdered in “Internal Affairs”. Given the look on Natalia’s face when the doctor hands her the brochure on domestic violence, she thought the ramifications from that relationship were all in her past. Interestingly, she doesn’t share any information about her past with the doctor, simply saying she hasn’t noticed any hearing loss issues prior to the explosion at the meth lab in “Count Me Out”. Natalia isn’t the first Miami CSI to face a health issue that threatens her job: back in season four Ryan grappled with vision problems after being shot in the eye with a nail gun in “Nailed”. More likely than not, this is why Ryan comes down so hard on Natalia about seeking help for her hearing problems; though he was equally reluctant when facing up to his eyesight problems, he knows firsthand how important it is for a CSI to have keen senses on the job.

Along with Walter, Ryan seems to be the go-to guy for humor these days, mostly of the sarcastic variety. Here he gets a few laugh-out-loud funny lines when he and Calleigh return to the crime scene in search of the pine needle scent Calleigh smelled on the victim’s clothes. He finds a shoe that smells of dead fish and picks it up, uttering, “Oh good—there apparently is a dead fish in here.” Having found nothing, Ryan rejoins Calleigh, lamenting, “That was a waste of my time and my pants.” Jonathan Togo‘s deadpan delivery is just right for the lines, and he elicits big laughs out of Ryan’s clear displeasure with the task at hand.

Source: "Die By The Sword"

Kristine Huntley


Kristine Huntley

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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